Unorganized Territory

A cheerful conspiracy
Rhonda Silence

It is spring and the epic debate has begun. For generations, the argument has gone unabated—is the dandelion a weed? A nuisance? Or is it a lovely wildflower, like the blue bell or forget-me-not?

This is a rousing debate in our household. I like the yellow fringed flowers. They are bright and cheerful and they bring happy memories. They make me smile remembering the very silly childhood games that revolved around dandelions.

I don’t know how or why, but the dandelion was the central player in a number of nonsensical activities when I was growing up. One that was sure to bring hilarity was when we would clutch the stem of a flower in a closed fist and then, with our thumb, flick the flower top off. As we did so, we’d shout, “Mama had a baby and its head popped off!”

Over and over again, we would pop dandelions about the yard, laughing hysterically at our cleverness.

Another activity was somewhat scientific. We used dandelions to determine one another’s food preferences. One child would seriously hold a dandelion under another child’s chin. Hmmm…if there was a bit of yellow reflection (there always was!) that meant that he or she liked butter. Amazing—everyone loved butter!

Dandelions also became costume jewelry. The long, slender stems lent themselves to creating chains. They were easy to weave into braids. We even brought family pets into the play, torturing them by making them sit as we adorned them with yellow necklaces.

I also remember using dandelions as the key ingredient in mud pies. Ice cream buckets or old kettles were used to stir concoctions of dandelions, daisies, pinecones, rocks, sand and water. The little tins that potpies come in were perfect to pat the mixture into for “baking.” We never ate our creations, but we had a lot of fun pretending.

And of course, when dandelions went to seed, we were able to predict our love lives. Remember? The fluffy white balls had to be plucked carefully. Then, the seeds were blown away with as big a puff as you could muster—if you managed to remove all of the feathery seeds, you were sure to have good luck with love. Forget the daisy and he loves me, he loves me not. The dandelion was the real test!

So, I don’t see dandelions as the bane of our spring and summer existence. But my husband Chuck does. At the first sign of the dandelions’ perky yellow heads, he is heading to the shed to get the Round-Up weed killer. I try to talk him out of slaughtering the flowers by telling him that when mowed, dandelions blend in and look just like blades of grass.

He doesn’t buy it. He claims that the dandelions duck when the mower approaches, popping up after it passes.

I don’t believe him. But then again, dandelions are smart enough to get children to play with them, assisting in the propagation of the species. Maybe there is something to his conspiracy theory. I don’t care, though. As long as it is a cheerful conspiracy, I can live with it.

It gives one a sudden start in going down a barren, stony street, to see upon a narrow strip of grass, just within the iron fence, the radiant dandelion, shining in the grass, like a spark dropped from the sun.

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2011-05-28 digital edition

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